Making Toys – 1LinerWeds

This past weekend, Shelly (Quaint Revival) asked a few questions about toys in her SoCS post,  including if we ever made toys. I told her I’d have to answer that in a blog post because my comment was already heading to blog post length.

I tended to make toys my mother wouldn’t buy for me or even let me buy. For example, she would not let me have a slingshot. However, it was pretty easy to find a Y-shaped piece of tree branch from which a slingshot could easily be carved. She would not let me have a toy bow and arrow. She would let me buy a kite, and when the paper fabric of the kite tore, it was pretty easy to fashion a bow from the long brace of the kite and two arrows from the short brace. Each piece already had a notch cut at the end—perfect for holding kite string.

One time, I saw a project in Popular Mechanics for building a mousetrap cannon. It was in a magazine, so it must be safe—right? I bought the magazine with my allowance and asked my dad if I could make the project. He must have had the same “it’s in a magazine” thought as I did, and he gave me permission. He told me I could look around for scrap in his workshop to build it and he gave me a little extra money to buy the mousetrap.

Public Domain from Springfield-Green County Library

The image shown is similar to the one in the plan, except the one in the magazine specified a piece of ½ inch copper pipe to be used as a barrel. I found some wood, a piece of ¾ inch iron pipe, and I went to the hardware store and bought a rat trap. The ammunition was supposed to be the little pencils used for keeping score in golf or miniature golf. I used one of the big round pencils they started you off with in Kindergarten.

I built my cannon, and it worked well. A friend and I we shooting it outside. A few days later, a friend of my father was visiting, and he noticed the magazine. He asked what I was making. Then he asked if he could see the cannon. He wanted to see it in action. I loaded it, fired it and stuck the pencil in the living room wall.

I won’t print all the one liners here, since this is a family blog, but it began with:

“Let me see that (adjectives deleted) magazine!”

It ended in laughter and a lesson on repairing plaster, but subsequent projects were scrutinized to a greater degree.

In my book, When Evil Chooses You, there’s a passage where Zach is lying about the scar he has on his thumb. The lie, the story of an Erector Set project gone bad, is based on the true story of another incident in our living room. In the real story, it was my dad who ended up bleeding.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, or if you would like to join in on the fun, you can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.


  1. Hi Dan , I really enjoyed this post. It sounds like you and your family were lucky to survive your childhood projects …it’s sounds like you’ve always been a keen make do and improviser! I really love your interpretation of a One liner 😁😁. As always great photos 😁😁💜

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You shot a pencil through PLASTER??? What tender memories for your parents! As for the leaf shadow, definitely a caterpillar. That lone crow must know something the others didn’t know. Some really nice silhouettes here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mom wasn’t home when it happened (that was a good thing). My father and his friend were laughing too hard to really get angry. But, we made the repairs. I did learn that more isn’t always better. The cannon eventually fell apart – the rat trap was too strong.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a fascinating post, Dan. It made me think of one of my brothers. We didn’t have much on the farm, certainly not toys. One of my brothers was always in trouble with his projects. But as an adult, like you, his creations now solve problems in the fields and at home. It’s amazing to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you can relate, Gwen. It’s funny, the toys our parents did buy for us were mostly building toys. Lincoln Logs, Erector Set, Tinker Toys. We had to build things and then imagine what was going on. I will always appreciate them for that.


  4. Dan, I can hear every word in my head that was said when the pencil flew into the plaster! Hysterical!

    Caterpillar! That’s what I saw immediately and then I read your caption! Great minds….

    Those birds on the wires would do Alfred Hitchcock proud.

    How nice to see the little guy out of his tree home.

    If you see any fighter jets flying over those balloons I would skedaddle mighty fast!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ginger – the balloons are down. I had been playing with the cannon outside. I was as surprised as my dad and his friend when the pencil stuck in the wall. I was worried, until they both started laughing.

      Great minds, indeed. The votes are in, and it’s a caterpillar. I always wonder what those birds are talking about up there. Probably making fun of those of us who can only walk from place to place.

      Up over the hump today, and warmer than it should be weather coming our way. Why do I feel like nature has an ace up her sleeve?


  5. The story behind the story…this was fun. You come by your talent from a very young age!
    The lone bird is such a pretty photo. And then there’s the other place where all the birds hang out–that’s a whole lotta birds!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the favorite hangout on our street, Lois. The birds stayed away for a while, when the crew was replacing the pole, but now they’re back in force. Hopefully, they’re getting ready for spring training.

      I’m not sure it’s talent, but as Rivergirl said, “what could go wrong?”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What could possibly go wrong ? It is funny how both parents and children go about acquiring wisdom. Enjoy the long shadows while they last Dan spring or some new season is on the way. I did not know sticks could do caterpillar shadow puppets…

    Liked by 1 person

    • We learn as we go, John. I’m not sure what season comes after the winter we’ve been having. I hope it’s spring. I think the stick did a pretty good caterpillar imitation. I hope you have a gret rest of the week.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember making (really bad) slingshots and bow-and-arrows as a kid. I can’t claim to ever have done what you did with the mousetrap cannon. Oh my word! What a memory! That’s one for the record books, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My parents finally relented and let me buy an actual target bow and join an archery club, Mae. My mother jokingly (I think) said, “As long as you don’t use it in the house!” The cannon was a fun project.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bird baseball is about to start spring training, Marian. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying Book 2. I am planning to do a “Doors of the Dreamer’s Alliance” post in a few weeks. Easy Pieces will be featured ;-)


  8. I have made many slingshots in my time! Very proud of them. Fortunately I was a bad aim. Never tried to make a cannon although I have made a couple of go carts. Those were fun. Love the pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dan, I’m jealous you got your cannon, because I fell victim to the “you’ll put your eye out” parenting style. I wasn’t allowed to have anything remotely resembling a projectile threat. I was allowed to buy a magic kit, and while I never pulled a rabbit out of my hat, at least it didn’t put any holes in the walls.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The authenticity of the original plan being in Popular Mechanics helped, Bruce. I took it off the plan on my own. I didn’t ask my mom-she would have nixed the idea in a heartbeat. I heard the eye injury warning often. I was never allowed a BB gun for that reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great photos Dan
    And I had to smile when you said your comment to Shelley was getting to be post length
    Ha! I can relate

    And I love how you let us feel that memory (and times are sure different these days as children had iPads and movies and video games with less exploring and creating like you had

    Also like how you led to that example in your book

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Yvette. I do tend to ramble on. Shelley’s post brought back lots of memories. We grew up in different times. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      Some of those experiences were adapted and given to characters in my books. I hope it helps them to seem real.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I bet it does help a lot – and some of those specific stories will also resonate with some readers more than others and then other parts of the book will offer tasty nuggets for different readers – ya know?

        Liked by 1 person

          • and one example that came to my mind was when I read Les Mis again a few years ago – I think it was 2015 and was maybe my fourth read.
            And this time when I read it – the section with one of the characters who was always tryign to start a business stood out to me more. In previous reads, I was captivated by the major characters – the battle – the love theme – the plot twists – and i found reading again that the hungry businessman who kept failing forward” resonated more because I was more seasoned and also used to teach “intro to business” classes
            anyhow, it sounds like the real-life examples you added will also appeal to reders in different stages – and then maybe you also give us history – hmm –

            Liked by 1 person

    • She often suggested we would drive her crazy, Teagan. Two boys and a big kid for a husband didn’t leave her much of a chance. But we always seemed to have fun, and we all lived to tell the stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Dan, this is a great story about your cannon making. My son, Michael, always had a great fascinating with bows, arrows, knives, swords. He has a collection but he knows they are dangerous and my dad has trained him on how to handle them. He puts them away if friends come over. He has been collecting since he was 10 years old. I was never interested in weapons. I spent my time constructing fairies from shells, and baby doll cots from margarine tubs and left over bits of fabric. Girls are so much easier when they are young – not easier when they are teens though.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You have an impressive combination of practical and creative skills. I bet your parents were proud of you whether they said it or not. I always enjoy your gallery. The caterpillar stick shadow is especially imaginative. You could do a fun photo book of your creatures of shadow and light.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Dan – coming from a toy-making family … I really needed to marry one with engineering skills and a whole load of other skills – didn’t happen! But c’est la vie … I can live vicariously … sounds like an ideal childhood – then ‘punish’ you by making you learn how to repair and plaster the wall! Fun to read – thank you … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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